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It’s good to be green

CAMBRIDGE, Ont. - Like many trucking companies, Sharp Transportation has unwittingly found itself an integral part of some of its most important customers' 'green' strategies. The fleet serves mostly ...

CAMBRIDGE, Ont. – Like many trucking companies, Sharp Transportation has unwittingly found itself an integral part of some of its most important customers’ ‘green’ strategies. The fleet serves mostly Fortune 500 companies, and it seems every big-name retailer has launched an environmental program aimed at reducing its emissions right through the entire supply chain.

“More and more of the bigger companies are coming up with green plans, some of them are realistic, some of them are not,” said Shawn Baird, sales manager with Sharp Transportation.

Nonetheless, if you want to keep those key accounts, you have to evolve with the times and find a way to help them achieve their environmental targets. That’s why Sharp is gradually reinventing itself into the most environmentally-friendly truck fleet possible.

Sharp’s current ‘green truck’ is achieving 8.95 mpg thanks to a spec’ing strategy aimed at increasing fuel mileage and ultimately reducing emissions. Sharp’s first green truck is a Kenworth T660 with an 07 Caterpillar C13 engine with 475 horses, paired with an Eaton 13-speed gearbox. It’s used on a dedicated run into Michigan.

“Our goal is 9 mpg and we think that’s obtainable,” said Baird, noting the truck had clocked only 28,000 miles and hadn’t been even been broken in yet.

The fleet isn’t prepared to end its pursuit when it hits the magical 9 mpg mark. In fact, the day Truck News visited Sharp Transportation, Baird was anxiously awaiting the delivery of a new truck that would hopefully surpass the accomplishments gained during Phase 1 of the fleet’s environmental initiative. The second generation truck would boast Kenworth’s CleanPower cab comfort system, which instead of diesel fuel relies on battery power to heat and cool the interior.

The first of Sharp’s green trucks had a number of interesting spec’s, including disc brakes all the way around, super-single tires and of course, Kenworth’s most aerodynamic spec’ing package. It also was running on synthetic oil, which Baird said would hopefully stretch drain intervals to 200,000 kms.

“Changing oil in the truck once a year is a pretty big thing for the environment,” pointed out Baird. “The shop wasn’t too happy, they thought they’d be losing work. I told them ‘It’s for your kids – think about the future!'”

The shop is happy with the performance of the disc brakes, which have no grease points and, unlike drum brakes, stay in alignment. They also provide a 50% shorter stopping distance, Baird added.

“They’re an expensive option, but I definitely see value in it.”

He’s also fond of the super-single tires and is encouraged to see more jurisdictions allowing their use at full weights.

“I like them because they cut our tire problems in half,” he pointed out. “Instead of 18 tires, we have 10.”

Gear ratios were set to achieve optimum performance with the transmission. The company worked with Caterpillar and employed its new software to determine the settings that would deliver the best possible fuel efficiency.

The trickiest part in spec’ing a green truck is determining which options are contributing towards the fuel mileage improvements, Baird said. He knows, for instance, that the green truck is achieving a full mile per gallon better fuel economy than the company’s previous generation of trucks. But tracing the improvement back to any one component is difficult.

“The problem with a lot of ideas that come out for fuel efficiency is that it’s tough to get a benchmark on them because there are so many variables – weather, road conditions, load, weight, driver – so it’s tough to see,” Baird explained.

Ken Kelly is the regular driver of Sharp’s green truck. That makes him a happy camper; he said the truck “drives very good” and “seems to haul better” than his previous trucks. Kelly can appreciate the importance of driving for maximum fuel mileage, since he’s a second career driver (or “commercial tourist,” as he refers to himself) with a background in finance.

“Ken understands when you put $900 in fuel into the tanks, that that’s a big cost to the company,” said Baird.

All of Sharp’s trucks are governed (105 km/h on cruise and 110 km/h on the pedal) and idling is strongly discouraged, although Baird doesn’t believe in employing an automatic shut-down strategy, since there are times when it’s -50 or + 40 C when he admits an APU just may not cut it.

“There’s a threshold on both ends,” he said. “We don’t want our drivers waking up seeing their own breath out there.”

While some of the options spec’d on Sharp’s new generation of green trucks are costly, the fleet’s customers appreciate the investment, Baird said.

“Our customers are paying attention to it and they all like what we’re doing,” he said. “A lot of our customers are large companies so they’re years ahead of everybody on this whole green thing. They’re really watching that and so we use this in our sales promotions and show them what we’re doing.”

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